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Jeremy Hunt: Mediocrity at heart of hospital scandal

Dudley | News | Published:

Failure and mediocrity is 'entrenched' in hospitals where thousands of excess deaths were uncovered, the Health Secretary said today.

Jeremy Hunt was speaking as a report on high mortality rates at 14 hospitals including Dudley's Russell's Hall was unveiled. It has been put on notice to make improvements as a review by Sir Bruce Keogh was expected to have found there were 1,235 excess deaths at the Dudley Group of Hospitals since 2005 – 222 of those last year.

Mr Hunt announced 11 of the 14 would be put in 'special measures' forcing them to team up with other NHS bodies, but Dudley was not one of them as watchdog Monitor was 'confident' that its current management would be able to deliver changes.

He said: "In its 65th year this government is deeply proud of our NHS."

He said doctors and nurses had never worked harder and that the problems were not typical of the NHS.

Mr Hunt added: "The last government left the NHS with a system that covered up weak leadership.

"The last government also failed to prioritise compassionate care. The system's reputation mattered more than individual patients. Targets mattered more than people.

"We owe it to the three million people who use the NHS every week to tackle abuse, incompetence and weak leadership head on. Mortality rates suggest that since 2005 thousands more may have died than would be expected at the 14 trusts reviewed by Sir Bruce.

"Each of the trusts has seen substantial changes to its management since 2010. Failure and mediocrity is so entrenched in others that they have continued to decline."

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The 14 hospital trusts, between them, are said to have been responsible for up to 13,000 'excess deaths' since 2005.

However, Labour Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said that 'nowhere' in the report did the figure appear. It comes following inquiries led by Robert Francis QC into the scandal at Stafford Hospital, where up to 1,200 people were found to have died as a result of poor care between 2005 and 2009. Today's review will show that Stafford was not alone with its failings.

Mr Burnham, who was the last minister in charge of health under the former Labour government, accused the Government of cutting nursing jobs.

He said: "Seven of the 14 hospitals have between them cut a shocking 1,117 nursing jobs on this government's watch. Unsurprisingly A&E performance has plummeted at all seven."

But Mr Hunt replied: "The Keogh Review is the review Labour never wanted to have."

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